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Thursday, 21 May 2020

Hypnotherapy Eased my Arachnophobia

Content warning: to those who struggle with a fear of spiders, this post will be discussing them as well as referring to t and d spiders. No potentially frightening or harmful images will be shown, only safe cartoon images.

For most of my life, a fear of spiders has plagued me. I couldn't bare to think or talk about them without shuddering or shrieking. I viewed them as evil, deadly creatures that were out to get me or potentially eat me, and if I saw one had to kill it instantly.

Having a phobia is horrible because rationally you are well aware that there isn't really anything to be afraid of. The majority of spiders are harmless, and are very useful in that they eat flies and annoying insects. They are part of the ecosystem. Daddy-long-legs are the most harmless, and actually quite delicate and fascinating to look at. Yet I found them so horrifying; seeing one would make me instantly scream. I remember the last time I killed one; I felt awful, but I simply couldn't stand knowing that one was there.

Okay that's just fucking adorable.
Phobias are usually triggered by a small early incident, that sets off a warning sign in the amygdala, which regulates fear and other emotions. For my hypnotherapy session, I had to think back to some early memories where the fear of spiders became set off. My earliest one I could remember was my Year One teacher telling us about headlice. The exact words I recall were 'nits are tiny, tiny little spiders that hatch eggs in your hair.' I don't recall this memory itself being too scary as I would have been about five. But shortly after, all my spider-related memories aged six-to-twenty-two are filled with terror.

In a simple one hour session, we talked a little about my phobia and then I stroked my arms up and down, counted to twenty and then said my phone number backwards, all while picturing myself swimming happily in the Lido. Afterwards I felt nothing but minor discomfort for spiders, the same I would get at seeing a cockroach or a snake.

I used to find horror movies scary, until I got stuck into Stephen King novels and my fear seeped away. When we're not afraid of something but someone else is, we don't tend to empathize with the other person. It's not because we're horrible people, it's just because it's very difficult to relate to something fearfully if you don't share the fear. Fear is one of our most primal emotions, and is there to protect us against things that are a potential threat. Fact is, telling someone who is scared of spiders 'stop being scared' is pointless. You are far more likely to be killed in a car crash than an aeroplane crash; still doesn't change those who have a phobia of flying.

Since the hypnotherapy session, I haven't killed a single spider; I have used a stick or a piece of tissue to artfully put them out the window. One little daddy-long-legs is casually chilling in my bathroom corner, but I am happy to leave it there undisturbed.

I don't think I'll ever 'like' spiders, and I do still find them strange-looking and unsettling, but I'm certainly not screaming and going to kill the poor little mites. When I see a spider now, I can logically process it, because the instant fear is gone. It has been replaced by the same discomfort I would get at seeing a cockroach or a snail (I love snails, but don't want them in my house), and some fascination at these delicate creatures.

I can only say, thank you so much James Mallison. If you struggle with any kind of phobia, I can't recommend this guy enough. You will not regret it.


The technique he used is called the 'havening technique', links are here:

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